Language in the 1990S
The official linguistic policy of the Karimov government has been that Uzbek is the language of the state, and Russian is the second language. Residents of Uzbekistan are required to study Uzbek to be eligible for citizenship. Following similar decisions in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, in September 1993 Uzbekistan announced plans to switch its alphabet from Cyrillic, which by that time had been in use for more than fifty years, to a script based on a modified Latin alphabet similar to that used in Turkey. According to plans, the transition will be complete by the year 2000. The primary reason for the short deadline is the urgent need to communicate with the outside world using a more universally understood alphabet. The move also has the political significance of signaling Uzbekistan's desire to break away from its past reliance on Russia and to limit the influence of Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which use the Arabic alphabet. A major project is under way to eradicate Russian words from the language and replace these words with "pure" Turkic words that have been borrowed from what is believed to be the ancient Turkic language of Inner Asia. At the same time, Uzbekistan's linguistic policies also are moving toward the West. In the early 1990s, the study of English has become increasingly common, and many policy makers express the hope that English will replace Russian as the language of international communication in Uzbekistan.
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